CCFN Commends U.S. Denunciations of EU’s GI Abuses, Calls for U.S. Government to Secure Commitments from Trading Partners

June 6th, 2019

The United States government in April rebuked the European Union for its abuses on geographical indications (GI) policies, describing the adverse impact on U.S. companies’ access to EU and other markets when the EU claims sole rights to use generic food names. In its annual Special 301 intellectual property report, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) said it will work to ensure that U.S. trading partners do not make bilateral GI agreements with the EU that violate prior rights of U.S. exporters or otherwise undermine a producer’s rights to use generic terms.

“For too long the United States has tolerated its trading partners’ disregard of their market access concessions and their acquiescence to EU GI demands that have negatively impacted suppliers from the United States and others throughout the New World,” said CCFN Executive Director Jaime Castaneda.

CCFN Chairman Errico Auricchio added, “With this report the USTR sends a strong message on the EU’s misuse of GIs to erect barriers to trade; to remedy the problems, we urge the Administration to promptly and forcefully follow through by securing binding commitments from U.S. trading partners that preserve market access rights for exporters.”

Overall, the report states, the EU GI agenda remains “highly concerning, because it significantly undermines the scope of trademarks and other IP rights held by U.S. producers and imposes barriers on market access for American-made goods that rely on the use of common names.” As part of its trade agreement negotiations, “the EU pressures trading partners to prevent all producers, other than in certain EU regions, from using certain product names, such as fontina, gorgonzola, asiago, or feta. This is despite the fact that these terms are the common names for products and produced in countries around the world.”

Castaneda called on the USTR to build further upon the positive precedent established in the USMCA Side Letter Agreement with Mexico, which affirmed market access rights on a subset of common product terms.

Prior to the report’s publication, CCFN filed extensive comments to the USTR expressing concern about the ongoing attack on manufacturers of foods with common names as the EU continues to pursue its GI agenda in bilateral and regional trade deals. CCFN also testified at a USTR-led hearing on those issues to further call USTR’s attention to these challenges.